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Washington’s size up front to challenge smaller Apollo-Ridge

Tribune-Review
| Thursday, November 6, 2014 10:51 p.m.
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Erica Dietz | Trib Total Media
Apollo-Ridge's Tre Tipton looks for an opening while being chased by Deer Lakes' Joe Trocki during the first half Friday, Oct. 17, 2014, at Deer Lakes.

It’s going to be Washington’s size against Apollo-Ridge’s speed in the trenches.

The sixth-seeded Vikings have yet to face an offensive unit with the size of No. 3 Washington, but Apollo-Ridge will have to find a way to overcome that challenge if it is to reach its first WPIAL semifinal and first 10-win season by defeating the Prexies in a Class AA quarterfinal at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Latrobe.

As a former lineman in his own playing days, Apollo-Ridge coach John Skiba said combating the weight advantage held by Washington (10-0) could be the most important challenge for his Vikings (9-1) in Friday’s game.

“They’re big up front. They’re probably averaging about 280 (pounds) or so up front, and they’re good technicians on the offensive line. I’m really impressed with the way they play up front,” Skiba said.

Apollo-Ridge’s average weight on the line is skewed upward somewhat by the presence of junior Eric Moran, a 6-foot-5, 316-pound tower at tackle. The Vikings have just two other players on their roster listed above 230 pounds, however, which means Apollo-Ridge’s defenders will have to fly through and around blocks to stop the run.

“It’s going to be a great challenge because they’ve got a lot of power and their front is pretty big. They know how to use their hands really well and their footwork is impressive,” Vikings senior Tre Tipton said. “A lot of people talk about our skills guys on both sides, but that’s where the battle is really going to be — in the trenches, and in the fourth quarter, who has what left.”

But while the Vikings are concerning themselves with a test of strength, Washington knows it’s coming up against a team as dynamic as any it has faced this year.

“I think it will be the toughest test we’ve faced all year,” Washington coach Mike Bosnic said. “We did see a lot of speed (in the first round) from Steel Valley, but this will be another step up. Tipton’s a great athlete, and they have other guys who are great high school players on top of that.”

That isn’t to say the Prexies don’t have their own excellent game breakers, such as running back Malik Wells and receiver DeQuay Isbell, both of whom have Skiba’s attention.

“(Wells) reminds me a lot of (Highlands’) Elijah Jackson. He’s not very big, but he’s strong, quick and he runs nasty,” Skiba said. “It’s an interesting matchup, but I know they’re going to try and pound it down our throat.”

“We feel we have some nice skill players, but it allows them to do more if we establish good line play,” Bosnic said. “That’s something we try to prove and establish right away.”

Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mgrubba@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Grubba_Trib.

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